Purpose is not old news - it has just evolved

There was talk of 'cause fatigue' at Cannes this year, but that doesn't mean the industry should move on - it's simply that purpose has evolved.

We have moved on from purpose 1.0, writes Charlie Coney
We have moved on from purpose 1.0, writes Charlie Coney
We know campaigns with purpose embedded are more effective in increasing emotional engagement, driving revenue, share price and ROI – and are more likely to win awards (roughly three out of four campaigns that won PR Lions had purpose embedded).

And brands see the appeal – those with purpose embedded within grow more quickly than those without. Unilever’s sustainable living brands delivered nearly half the company’s growth and grew faster than the rest of the business.

But looking over the best campaigns from Cannes, there has been a shift from 'purpose 1.0' – where a brand or product addresses an issue or supports a cause – to a new place.

This is driven by consumer demand, where they expect companies to follow through and address the issues of which they’ve raised awareness.
When you think about increasing emotional engagement with your customers – to convert them from repertoire buyers to loyal fans – it makes sense to solve their problems, not just highlight them.
And it makes sense for PR agencies to lead this change – we’re the experts in earning trust and confidence, rather than buying it.

The challenge is finding a purpose that’s relevant to both brand and audience and making sure it’s not just a tactical one-off – where cause fatigue sets in – but an integral part of a much broader strategy.

Campaigns like Paul’s ‘Bittersweet Pies’ and Nas Grunt’s ‘Bees Can Find Sugar’ are fine examples of a brand or product raising awareness of an issue, but they could go so much further. 

Compare them to Slow Down GPS, Edible Six Pack, or REI’s Opt Outside and you begin to see the future of purpose-related campaigns.  

The rise of insurance companies winning at Cannes is a good example – rather than insuring against accidents, they’re developing technology to prevent accidents occurring in the first place. 

This sense of utility, of providing products and services of genuine use for consumers, is all important – particularly for a millennial audience, 85 per cent of whom correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand with the social good a company is doing.

That’s not to say the work has to be dull and worthy – we’re in the entertainment business as much as we’re in the reputation business. It can’t – and shouldn’t – be a serious topic all the time. 

To cut through in a world where every brand will soon be tackling an issue, problem or concern, you need to balance entertainment with purpose.

Manboobs (Google it) or Brewtroleum show what can be done when you create something of value, and weave in a compelling story and engaging call to action. 

There are seismic changes happening in the industry, changes that present real opportunities to be authentic and relevant, as well as opportunities to create real change.
We often counsel our clients to stop talking and start doing – it’s time we did the same.

Charlie Coney is head of creative EMEA at Golin

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